Scribbling filled the room, filling in the empty spaces between breathless sobs and pained gasps. A head bowed over a well-used journal, black hair falling into his wet eyes, one of which currently had an ice pack held to it. The writing was messy, evident of not only the writer’s pain but inability to see straight due to one eye unable to open, throwing his perception off.
‘I don’t understand. What is it about me that you hate so much? I can’t help but love you despite the fact it’s incredibly clear you’d be happier without me around. I wish I didn’t. I wish I could let go of this love. But every time, I think I could, I see another side of you, one that is so caring and kind-hearted; the complete opposite of what you show everyone at school. I’ve never made it known how I feel, I’m not stupid. That would be beyond social suicide to do so, it would never be accepted in this town, let alone by you. I’ve never even tried to talk to you beyond when teachers make us or when our paths might cross, and it would be rude to not at least acknowledge you. But I hear the comments you and your friends make about me. Even if you didn’t say them within my earshot, anything the popular kids say gets around this school quickly.
It hurts, it really does, every time I hear someone call me retard, idiot, slow, stupid, and so on. It does hurt when they attack my looks but I’m not stupid, I’m not good-looking, I know that. But I am smart. It may take me a little bit to understand something, but I am smart, I am clever; I have to be to survive here. Somehow, it hurts even more when I hear you say those things about me. Especially since I’d never done anything to you, barely even interacted with you and yet, you’re so willing to bully me to keep face in front of your ‘friends’.
Where is the guy I saw feeding the stray cats last winter? Where’s the guy I saw help a girl at the mall when she was knocked over, losing everything out of her bag? Where’s the guy I saw helping a couple of little kids learn how to swim last summer? Where’s that guy when we’re at school? He’s the one that keeps me attached, he’s the reason I can’t let you go even though I so desperately want to.’
Chiming sounded from the laptop that shared the desktop with the journal currently being written in. Glistening blue eyes, one barely peering out of the swollen lid now that the ice pack had done its work, stared at the laptop nearly incomprehensibly. He put his pen down once it crossed his mind that the chiming was his one of his only friends messaging him via one of the chat sites he was a member of. A tremulous smile crossed his lips as he saw that it was NightHawk89 that was messaging him. He clicked open the chat and responded to NightHawk89’s increasingly worried hellos.
NightHawk89: Thank God, I was beginning to worry. Your profile said you were online, but you weren’t answering.
OverridePugs89: Sorry, I was writing.
NightHawk89: Some of that really good fiction writing or journal writing?
NightHawk89: What happened?
OverridePugs89: What do u mean?
NightHawk89: You only journal this early if something bad happened, plus you Never only give one-word answers. So, what happened?
OverridePugs89: I got jumped.
NightHawk89: Jumped? What do you mean jumped? If u mean wat I think u mean, then who? Tell me and I’ll beat them up!
OverridePugs89: Don’t worry about it, I doubt you know them.
NightHawk89: What happened though? You’re the last person I’d see as getting beaten up. BTW: I still want to beat them up.
OverridePugs89: I was coming out of the library after school was out when Ben and some of his friends walked up. I didn’t think anything of it, they usually ignore me or make comments behind my back but clearly when in earshot. But I guess something made a couple of them angry today and they decided I was a good target. Daniel knocked my books out of my hands. When I protested, they were library books after all, Logan shoved me and told me to shut the * up. I stumbled but kept my footing until I started to pick my books up. It was probably stupid to show my back, but I didn’t want them to damage the books. Logan shoved me again, this time, since I was already off-balanced, I fell, rolling until I was on my back. I started to get up, but Michael put a foot on my chest, holding me down while Logan kicked me. When they finally decided to let me up, my sides aching, Michael grabbed my t-shirt, holding me in position to hit me again. I braced myself but Michael paused, asking Ben if he wanted to hit me since he hadn’t done anything yet. He waved him off, staring at his phone, telling him that he could finish taking care of the retard. Two punches later, one bloodying my nose and the other blackening my eye, they let me go and left me behind, Logan and Michael rejoicing in what they did while Ben and Daniel ignored them.
There was a long pause, and Maddox was certain he’d run his best friend off but then there was another chime.
NightHawk89: Those *holes! I do know who you’re talking about and I still wanna beat them up! They’d deserve it for picking on you.
OverridePugs89: Please don’t. You’ll just get into trouble and I don’t want you to risk getting suspended or expelled from your school over something that happened at mine. I told you what happened, and I want to think about anything but this now.
NightHawk89: Okay, fine. Chess?
NightHawk89: I’ll set up the room and send you the invite.
A few hours later, Maddox was sound asleep in his bed, worried about what might happen the next day but still able to sleep; things were the complete opposite a few miles away for his friend NightHawk89.
He sat in his desk chair, fiddling with his Rubik’s cube while he was lost in thought.
Ben ran his hand through his black hair, messing it up even further, as he thought about his conversation with his friend Overridepugs89, which he now knew to be Maddox from school. He’d already felt guilty for what his friends Daniel, Michael and Logan had done to him. But knowing now, that he was one of his closest friends through the internet, he felt even worse.
He didn’t know why he’d let it happen, or why he always picked on Maddox.
Scratch that, he did know; he just hadn’t wanted to face the truth. It wasn’t accepted here, after all, in their small town; and would only lead to the two of them, if Maddox was even open to the idea, being beaten up and run out of town, if they survived the beatings.
Ben knew very well that his treatment of Maddox, as mean and juvenile as it was, was the same as when a little boy pulled a little girl’s pigtails, not that he could ever tell Maddox.
He bit his lip as he put his Rubik’s cube back on his desk, knowing he needed to get some sleep before school in the morning, he couldn’t tell Maddox, but he could treat him better, couldn’t he? He wouldn’t even need to tell him that he was NightHawk89, unless it came up; after all, Maddox believed he attended another school across town. He’d created that lie when OverridePugs89 had told him he attended the same school, he’d already liked OverridePugs89 and hadn’t wanted him looking for him at school. Ben knew very well he was completely different at school than he was anywhere else. He considered it necessary, knowing just how different he was to everyone else in the school; but he hadn’t wanted OverridePugs89 to change their mind about being his friend if they saw him at school.
Choice made; Ben headed to bed.
Maddox tensed against his will, hands tightening on the straps of his backpack as Ben and his friends came into view. He turned to his locker, focusing on his lock. He knew what was likely to come.
Sure enough, after some more complaints about the homework, Logan turned his attention to the people around him. He smirked as he saw the school retard.
Maddox forced himself to ignore Logan’s comments about his intelligence, left eye still stinging, before freezing in shock, hand still reached into his locker for his chemistry book, when Ben told Logan to knock it off.
He swallowed hard, forcing himself to move normally, to act as if he heard nothing, as Ben reprimanded Logan.
“Don’t you ever get tired of being a bully? Why do you continuously put others down? There’s no reason for you to be making fun of anyone else’s looks or mind.”
Ben knew he was putting himself at risk of losing his friends and marking himself as a target, but he was so tired of either ignoring his ‘friends’ comments or joining in to keep face.
Surprisingly, Daniel seemed relieved at Ben’s words while Michael simply watched, calmly. Logan, naturally, was surprised.
“What the hell, man? We’ve always done this.”
“Yeah, and I’m sick of it. I never enjoyed it but just went along with it. You went too far yesterday, though. Words are bad enough but there was no reason to beat someone up.”
Murmurs broke out in the crowd around them, creating a lump in Ben’s chest. He hadn’t realized others were listening to him and Logan. No matter how many years it had been since he’d become ‘popular’, he’d never been able to get used to others listening to and watching him.
Luckily, the crowd seemed to unfurl the fight in Logan, and he scoffed, “Whatever, dude. I’m going to my locker.”
Logan stalked off, creating a path in the crowd as students parted for him to pass. Ben looked curiously at Daniel and Michael as they remained with him instead of following Logan.
Daniel shrugged, “I never liked bullying others but like you, I did it to keep face as I didn’t want Logan to turn on me. I don’t have any other friends.”
Michael tilted his head in acquiescence, “I’m the same but, I think like you two, I assumed you were both like Logan and I didn’t want the three of you to turn the treatment on me.”
“And now that we know that Logan is, apparently, the only one that actually is a bully?”
“I’m good with knocking that shit off.”
“Indeed. I’d rather make better use of my time that coming up with insults that mean nothing and do nothing but hurt others pointlessly.”
Ben nodded and the three made their way to their lockers, which happened to be in the same bank but a different hall than Logan’s, leaving behind students gossiping about what had just happened.
Maddox remained at his locker for a few more minutes, under the guise of putting his books in his backpack, while his mind whirled through what he’d just witnessed.
Ben had just stood up for him when Logan was bullying him. Not only that, but he’d also told Logan to knock it off in general and that he’d gone too far the day before. Apparently, the three of them didn’t like being bullies but thought the other two were along with Logan and didn’t want to not only lose their friends but have the treatment turned on them.
Maddox bit his lip, maybe things would change around here just a little?
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